Monday, April 11, 2016


At the outset let me say that I don't believe anger IS a sin at all. I believe it is generally better
understood as simply a negative human emotion. What you DO with your anger can become a sinful thing certainly. But when the bible says "do not let the sun go down on your anger" it is not saying anything about the nature of anger. It is advising us to deal quickly with something that can create real problems if left unattended. I also believe there is such an animal as "righteous anger." But that is the subject of another post at another time and ISN'T indicative of MOST of the anger we experience anyway.

Anger is a lot like fear in the scriptures. It is usually addressed in a negative context but, if correctly understood, the problem biblically is with the ACTION that results from the emotion, not the emotion itself. When speaking about fear, Jesus said on one occasion, "Oh ye of little faith, why are you so fearful." The storm they were in would make ANYONE who is a thinking person a bit fearful I would think. But they awakened Him and questioned His caring for them...out of fear. Which indicates, by the way, that He must have gone to sleep AFTER the storm arose or the question is rather ridiculous. So their action of waking Him up was done based on assuming He didn't care about them ['Look..He just went to sleep while we were in trouble.'] and was the indicator of their lack of faith or trust in Him.

I would think it wise to ALWAYS have a bit of fearful adrenalin flowing in the middle of storms, wouldn't you? Just don't do anything stupid motivated by that fear. The results can be awful. Anger is much that way. It is a powerful, albeit negative emotion, that can bring about terrible results when not properly restrained or handled responsibly.

Someone could be thinking..."Oh no, Paul Burleson is always talking about angry people and trying to get people to be nice to one another. Doesn't he know some things are worth getting angry about?" I admit to writing a good bit about the need to watch anger in life. But it isn't so much the anger I see in others that causes me to speak of it. It is that I see anger in others quickly BECAUSE I have experienced it in my own life for so long and I have seen the hurt I've caused in relationships because of it.

In fact, I've found that what most of us spot quickly and wish to correct personally in others is what is really present in us. But we so often DON'T see it there at all. I finally saw it in me. It was not pretty. I've already stated that I believe our anger is seldom the righteous kind. [Except in one's own eyes.]

That said, I must confess that anger seems more prevalent in all venues of society today more than any time I can remember. Whether politics, television, radio, entertainment or even religion, people appear to be taking license with expressing anger and there seems to be little or no regret about it or taking responsibility for it.

So let's talk about anger.

Well, let me begin by saying that I don't think other people CAN make you or me angry. Anger in a person is not caused by the actions of other people. It is really the result of two things as I understand it.

One___is our thinking about what someone does. If I'm thinking.."They don't have a right to do that." Or, if I'm thinking..."They shouldn't treat me that way." Then I act a certain into isolation, throw something, cry, angrily retort, get loud, or any number of things I can act out. You can see, I'm sure, that it was my THINKING about what they were doing that caused my reaction to their behavior.

But for me to say "I did it BECAUSE they made me angry," is to state an UNTRUTH. To say I chose to do what I did BECAUSE of my anger IS a truthful statement, but you are never a victim of someone else's behavior. There is, of course, the exception where you are robbed of choices were you to be, in fact, a captive to someone, which is illegal or immoral at worst and certainly an unhealthy situation at best, even if it's a marriage holding you captive.

But to believe you are a victim to what people do or say in normal circumstances of life and are made angry by their actions or words is to reject the responsibility of choices we have as human beings. To believe otherwise fails to own our own behavior and we become a blamer.

The fact is we have a will and are responsible to use it as we choose, REGARDLESS of the actions of others, to be different in our own actions. But it is learning to "faith" [believe] who we are in Christ, [Forgiven/Free/New Creation] and then thinking correctly, responsibly, even biblically so that ultimately, in the power of the Spirit, we can choose, as Christians, to BE different in actions, regardless of other peoples behavior, that makes for good choices as Christians.

The other thing is___my anger is not only caused by my own thinking, but it is also often present in me because of blocked goals. If I have a goal such as.."They are going to treat me right or else"...and "if they DON'T, then watch out," my anger tends to be felt and expressed. But neither the feeling nor the expression of it are the result of someone else's action. It is because I had a goal [To be treated right.] and no one had better keep that from happening.

Driving a car can illustrate the same thing. Four way stop. My turn. Someone jumps ahead of me. WATCH OUT. But they didn't cause my anger. I had a goal of fairness in taking turns at the stop signs and they blocked it and I had angry emotions because of my thinking that they had no right to do so. To illustrate this Larry Crabb once showed it this way....

"A is the event. C is the emotion. Most people think A__causes__C. But A___doesn't cause ___C. The third ingredient everyone seems to bypass is B which is our thinking about the event. It is B___that causes C".

"As a man thinketh in his heart [mind] so is he." [In his actions.]

One of the best ways to grow is to accept as valid that you're not a victim to anyone or anything. As a follower of Christ we are empowered by a true knowledge of His word and the life of His Spirit within us enlightening that truth to our minds to live life in victory, not as a victim. So we CAN think clearly. Such clear thinking can produce different actions in us than are found in those who act like angry jerks. It can cause a taking of responsibility and choosing to NOT act that same way. Like an angry jerk.

It WOULD be wise to not let the sun go down on your anger by allowing it's presence in you to challenge you to responsible self examination about your incorrect thinking instead of playing the blame game.

Choosing to act Christian. What a novel idea.

Paul B.


Aussie John said...

Great stuff! Sounds like a year or two of wisdom behind those words! the main trigger in me is injustice towards others. I feel their hurt.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I've written about this before but some things just bear repeating I think.

Thanks for you comment.

Rex Ray said...


Now that’s one mad baby! :)

What’s he angry about? Hungry; wet dipper; dipper too tight; his twin has all the toys (been there).

“Do not let the sun go down on your anger”, does not mean don’t ever be angry.

Someone pointed out if you were angry with a friend, loved one, etc. and they died during the night, you would feel more than the usual sadness

Besides that, you wouldn’t get a good night’s sleep.

Paul, I think you’re on thin ice because if you should not be angry over the actions of others, you should not be happy over the actions of others.

I’m glad you’re back in ‘the saddle’ after almost two weeks.

Rex Ray said...

I hope no one is angry of my spelling of diaper as my wife pointed out. :)

Paul Burleson said...


I'm not surprised that you, or anyone for that matter, might think I'm on thin ice with this one. But I think the ice may be thicker than first thought. Let me illustrate.

Suppose someone finds out their spouse was committing adultery. You would expect that person to have FEELINGS OF being betrayed, even sadness. But suppose I told you they had FEELINGS of relief and even joy. upon finding out the news of their spouse's unfaithfulness. Can you tell me the difference maker in FEELING one way or the other?

The answer to that question explains how, as John Piper says, "Our emotions are ONLY an echo of Our________!"

Rex Ray said...


I don’t know/understand what John Piper said. In fact I don’t even know what he said. :)

Jesus never was angry at Calvary despite what others did to him because he knew it was his Father’s plan to ‘reunite’ anyone who believed in his Son.

You didn’t replay to: “if you should not be angry over the actions of others, you should not be happy over the actions of others.”

I mean, were you not ever happy because of the actions by others at Christmas?

If a spouse felt “relief and even joy upon finding out the news of their spouse’s unfaithfulness”, I think that person would PROBABLY no longer love their spouse but MAY be wishing to marry someone else. A divorce caused by their spouse would be a ‘Christmas present’.

I think the ice is cracking. :)

Paul Burleson said...


My question and its answer make up my answer to your question. I'm thinking at our age sounds, the cracking of ice for instance, can fool us at times. I'll leave it there. ;)

Bob Cleveland said...

Ephesians 4:31 says "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." That is a pretty emphatic statement. And IMO, it is made because it is good for us to do that. Not to conform to someone else's opinion as to our behavior.

I decided a bit over 50 years ago that I would never, ever, be angry. It took under 24 hours for the devil to test that, and another 5 minutes for God to affirm it. So I simply do not allow anger to build in me.

I'm miles and miles away from perfect, but anger is one problem that's not a problem.

Paul Burleson said...


Great comment. You're THINKING correctly according to my understanding. :)

Rex Ray said...


You know I never quit digging until ‘all the tatters are dug in that field.’

You said the answer of being sad or happy over a spouse’s unfaithfulness is answered by John Piper statement: “Our emotions are ONLY an echo of Our_______!”

1. Potato: I don’t know what Piper meant, and I’ve asked you to explain but you haven’t.

2. Potato: You have not replied to my reason why a person would be happy and not sad over a spouse’s unfaithfulness which was that person hated their spouse and wanted to marry someone else.

3. Potato: You have not replied to my saying, “If you should not be angry over the actions of others, you should not be happy over the actions of others.” (I asked the question, then I asked you again, and now this is the third time.)

The closest your son ever came to admitting he was wrong was this: “Sometimes words do not convey their true meaning.” Wonder if that’s inherited? :)

It’s been said, “Fear not those who argue but fear those who dodge.”

“Don’t leave Shane…we love you!” :)

Paul Burleson said...


Someone has said in a comment I read on another blog where the charge of "giving no answer" was made, "To give an answer to a question with which someone disagrees is often viewed by the one disagreeing as having been given no answer at all. I'll let my words stand as I believe they speak for themselves. The community of commenters will have to decide for themselves on which side of the disagreement they fall."

I'm thinking I agree with Someone on this one. :)

Aussie John said...


Wise words. Anyone would think you were a student of Scripture :)

As Paul B. said,"Choosing to act Christian. What a novel idea."

Another wise man once said,"Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
for anger lodges in the heart of fools."

Victorious said...

hmmm...I'm thinking to deny one's anger is to deny their humanity. Anger, sadness, joy, confusion, etc. are natural emotions and I think to ignore or deny them is the near equivalent of apathy.

Isn't the real problem how we react and/or respond to situations/people and how we express that anger if at all?

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks! This, "Isn't the real problem how we react and/or respond to situations/people and how we express that anger if at all" is PRECISELY the point of the post. [See first paragraph and the rest amplifying it all.]

You nailed it!

Victorious said...

LOL! OK, now I can add embarrassment to the list of natural human emotions. I'm gonna blame my age and short-term memory because by the time I got to the end of your post, I'd forgotten the beginning.

Thanks, Paul! Great post and thought provoking, as usual!

Paul Burleson said...


Now THAT'S funny.

As usual, I get more out of your comments than I do most blog posts I read. I'm still laughing. :)

Rex Ray said...


There’s a reason you said, “…by the time I got to the end of your post, I’d forgotten the beginning.”

Paul’s beginning is great in that it deals with controlling anger.

But it’s like the First Church Council where the topic was how Christian Gentiles could be saved, and was switched to how Christian Jews would accept them.

Paul switched from what we should do with anger to:
1. “Anger in a person is not caused by the actions of other people,”
2. “You are never a victim of someone else’s behavior.”

IMHO, these two stories will show his two comments won’t hold water.

Before I was born, my father made a small baby bed. When a brother came with me, he added more space. One day, I was crying because my twin had reached through the bars and had ALL the toys behind him.

My brother-in-law was a principle at a junior high school. A big boy in kindergarten had hit a small boy. After receiving one lick for punishment, he told the principle it was the only way he could get the small boy to stop bothering him.

The little boy was called to the principle’s office.
“Did you pester the boy that hit you?”
“Do you think you should get one lick the same as him?”
“Bend over and grab you ankles.”
The 5 year old said, “When are you going to put me to sleep?”

[The big boy was made angry by the actions of the little boy.]